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Australia can't afford to give Azzurri a sniff

Date

Paul Cully

New licence … Andrea Masi, left, in the All Blacks Test.

New licence … Andrea Masi, left, in the All Blacks Test. Photo: Getty Images

The origins of the All Blacks' five-pointers against Italy in Rome last weekend were as follows: lineout, lineout, lineout, scrum and counter-attack. Little wonder then that the Waratahs this week handed coach Alan Gaffney a new portfolio concentrating entirely on attacking set-pieces.

The Waratahs also announced a new assistant coach, New Zealander Daryl Gibson, but they've clearly been keeping a close eye on how his compatriots have been really hurting sides year.

Of those set-piece All Blacks tries, the first two came from first phase, the third from fourth phase and the fourth from seven phases, but even in the latter the intent was there to strike immediately.

Runners were in motion either side of five-eighth Aaron Cruden and only good defence prevented him from squeezing through a gap close to the line.

For the Wallabies, Digby Ioane's try from a scrum against Argentina stood out not only because of its excellence, but because of its rarity. How they could do with some of these rapier thrusts in Florence this weekend because the longer the game remains close the more it becomes a threat to fingernails.

The Wallabies do not want this side to get a sniff, or even be at arm's length on the scoreboard. On last week's evidence, this is a handy unit. Rising self-belief in front of a parochial crowd would make them an even more worrying commodity.

Talk this week about a more expansive approach from the Italians is not just hot air. Looking at how they played at times in Rome - with enterprise and some skill - you wonder what took them so long.

What also stood out is they have a bit of size away from the traditional source of their threat, the forwards. On the right wing Giovanbattista Venditti - who scored the try when Italy beat Scotland in the Six Nations this year - is a powerful runner, while fullback Andrea Masi's new licence to counter-attack brought his footwork into the game.

The approach also suits their back row of openside Simone Favaro, the hard-working lineout target Alessandro Zanni and Sergio Parisse. The No.8's reputation in the northern hemisphere has not always stood up against the powers of the southern hemisphere but the new desire to offload and support plays well to his undoubted athletic gifts.

The All Blacks were made to miss an uncommonly high percentage of tackles.

There is, however, a specific weakness to the Italians' defensive structure if they keep to last week's selections. It is one the Wallabies are familiar with, having also had to contend with the challenges it brings. The No.10, Luciano Orquera, is a fallible defender who they try to protect by taking him out of the defensive line. Instead, they shift Masi into the No.10 channel on opposition ball, with not entirely convincing results. The fullback got badly lost for the All Blacks' opening try, over-running Cruden whose sharp feet took him inside in the break that led to Kieran Read's score.

In Rome, Orquera was positioned on the wing in defensive situations, but his 170-centimetre, 78-kilogram frame can also provide an opportunity when Italy are set up to attack. In the first half the All Blacks nicked a lineout and threw it to No.6 Liam Messam, whose eyes lit up as he charged straight over the op of the little Italian. Orquera rather woozily returned to his feet and trotted off to the relative sanctuary of the wing once more. It remains a game for all sizes, but not if you can be exposed in a one-on-one contest. Accordingly, the crossfield kick probably now comes into the Wallabies' thinking in Florence.

Of course, all this supposition goes out the window if the big men don't attend to their business. We already know the Italian scrum will attack on their ball. They'll probably pick up some penalties, too. That will mean less if the Wallabies can win their own feed with conviction and give the backs something to run onto.

In the background there is the knowledge that a certain news conference has been scheduled for Monday, with a talented but disaffected colleague apparently intent on exiting. A display of crisp, accurate attack would lessen the relevance of that event but the Italians do not have the appearance of fodder. First, the Wallabies must get the win.

Twitter - @whiskeycully

12 comments so far

  • Nice read Cully as per usual. And yes, the Wallabies need to win whatever the style, tactics, or entertainment they feel they must employ.
    They simply MUST win.
    A loss to the Azzurri for the Wallabies has all the connotations of the last French defeat in Paris.
    To state the bleeding obvious, the Wallabies must find some consistency and string together a few wins. While not to getting ahead of ourselves they will play the wounded Welsh next week and like.....look-out Wallabies here they come !
    These last two Tests will be the definitive of this Spring Tour to the Northern Hemisphere.
    Wallabies it's time to man up and deliver !

    Whose the disaffected 'one' intent on exiting ??

    Commenter
    Machooka
    Location
    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    November 23, 2012, 9:54AM
    • Wallabies to win as long as the back row stays on for long enough in the scrums to help our "most experienced front row". 8 x GRUNT is the only answer!!!!

      P.S Palu for god's sake pick the ball up and run from the back of the scrum just like Gavin and Willie O...........

      Commenter
      romiley rider
      Location
      nsw
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 2:28PM
    • You're right Chook~ the Wallabies need to win at all costs no question but if they play like last weekend, they may just struggle, because all the evidence of a lucky win was there as the Poms stuffed up big time by not taking 'gift' penalties when they opted for a try which indicates the Poms should've won, and the Aussie scrum still got shoved around at the Poms' will, so one can imagine what the Italians will do with their far better scrum than the Aussies have, and no team these days take the Italian scrum lightly these days, remember last week when they gave the All Blacks the 'heave ho' a few times last week and not many do that! so they'll need to be aware of those crafty Azzurri dudes.

      The Aussies 'should' win, but they're going to have to go in there right from the word go and assert themselves which won't be easy as we should imagine!

      For the Wallabies, this is a danger game and if they lose~~well let's not even think about it, but just remember the Italians are at home and they'd have been schooled up on last weeks game between the Wallabies and the Poms, so they'll be feeling reasonably confident~~We'll see!!

      Commenter
      kirky
      Date and time
      November 24, 2012, 11:20AM
    • @ kirky

      Nice of you to drop-in but go figure, as I disagree with your assertion that the Aussie scrum was bettered by the Poms. Sure the Poms chanced their arm by NOT taking a few penality opportunities at goal but that's the Poms for you.
      Hey, read Spiros' article as that gives a good insight as to what really happened on the day. Basically, the Wallabies for once had it over the Pom's in the scrum and we didn't have a nancy Ref who thought THOSE Aussies are shyte at scrum time.
      But I do agree with yours and mine view that the Wallabies are going to be tested (big time) against the Auzzuri and a win is ALL that matters.
      That said I was talkin' to a Welsh mate who lives in NZ and both of us agreed that the bottom half of the top 10 (IRB rankings) are to to be feared on any given day.
      He being, as stated a Welshman, is NOT a happy camper at present and both of us are looking at next w'end's Test with great trepidation!
      But first we MUST beat Italy by ANY means. Ciao

      Commenter
      Machooka
      Location
      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      November 24, 2012, 5:34PM
  • What an improvement vs England but Italy will be difficult they were outstanding against the All Blacks but the Wallabies are on the way back an outstandind Front Row peformance and attacking Backs will make the difference.

    Commenter
    randab
    Location
    Tamworth
    Date and time
    November 23, 2012, 4:27PM
    • Mr Cully. Thanks for info re the AB's game
      Back in Skippy land for a wee while and have not seen any AB's games on Foxtel. No v Scotland (who cares?) no v Italy (sounds interesting) and cannot find when v Wales will be on any tv channel..............paid or free! Best team in world and huge fan base in Oz but nothing on TV?? Duh fixtel whats going on?? If not V wales (useless) the most likely not even v poms??
      Can any one suggest how I see either of these games on tv??
      thanks
      Go wobbles v Italy and esp wales (a team that believes it is way better than it is.........no win v AB's since 1953?! not a great record when you consider how good THEY think they are)

      Commenter
      headed off
      Location
      Guatavita, Colombia
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 5:06PM
      • @ headed off

        How come the Scotsman is in Aussie? No probs arriving here as a farmer from Colombia ??

        In answer to your question jump a flight to NZ (only a wee few hours and cheap as ch...) as I'm sure that they should have a telecast of the ABs game on somewhere.
        Then hop it back to Aussie.
        I watched ABs v Italy earlier in the week on Foxtel.
        I think there's NO telecast of the mighty ABs here 'cause what the point as they always win !
        Anyhow, good luck against the Welsh regardless of where you watch it.

        Commenter
        Machooka
        Location
        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        November 24, 2012, 2:45PM
      • headed off - both the Scotland & Italy game were on Foxtel. The AB's v Wales & AB's V England are on setanta due to rights issues.

        Commenter
        Shane D
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        November 24, 2012, 8:51PM
    • @ headed off You can watch the AB's v Wales (& Eng) on Foxtel, but you have to subscribe for the Setana channel (525).

      Commenter
      Happy Helmet
      Location
      Cloud 9
      Date and time
      November 24, 2012, 11:28AM
      • Try livetv.ru They have most things. I watched the 2010 England v ABs game live streamed on ATDHE.net which has since been shut down. You have to use things like rtmpdump on unix or Applian Replay Media Catcher on wintel to save a copy of the stream. Kind of stupid from Foxtel. they will lose them more customers than Setanta will gain. Who would subscribe to Setanta for two months for $50 to watch two live games of international rugby (ABs v Wales and England) with UK commentary. The rest of the rugby on Setanta isn't worth watching over winter only the spring openers and the autumn finals have any ball movement. The games over Christmas and January are scrum fests in the wet and snow.

        Commenter
        stojo01
        Location
        zeadney
        Date and time
        November 25, 2012, 1:38AM

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